Payments will now be stopped after four weeks if recipients are away. Benefit claimants have been banned from getting handouts to take long holidays subsidised by taxpayers. New rules means housing benefit payments will be stopped after four weeks if recipients are out of the UK.

Previously housing benefits were doled out even to people who had been away for up to 13 weeks. In a bizarre loophole, claimants could have rent paid for 13 weeks – unlike jobseekers’ allowance and other benefits which were capped after a month.

Welfare minister Caroline Nokes said: “It’s important that the benefits system is fair to those who need it and those who pay for it. “It’s not right that people could be abroad for over three months and still expect the taxpayer to pay their rent back in the UK.

“These new rules mean that people can still enjoy holidays like everyone else, but will ensure that the system isn’t abused.”
The move to end “handout holidays” – which came into force yesterday – is part of a bid to curb Britain’s massive £25 billion housing benefit bill.

It will not apply to members of the Armed Forces who are sent overseas, people away for medical treatment or those fleeing domestic violence.

Housing benefit is worth up to £302.33 a week for a two bedroom property or up to £417.02 for a four bedroom property for low-paid and unemployed people who rent their home.

The UK Government has started a major programme of welfare reform and if you claim benefits you could be affected. Some changes have already been introduced, but there are more to come during 2016.

From 28 July 2016, you cannot receive Housing Benefit or Pension Credit, if you go abroad (outside Great Britain) for more than four weeks. “Great Britain” is England, Scotland and Wales, so absences in the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland or the Channel Islands count as abroad for this purpose. Previously (up until 28 July 2016) you could be absent from Great Britain for up to 13 weeks.